In this line of work you need to be prepared to see all kinds of things. At some calls you end up being caught by surprise and sometimes have to see something you never want to see again….
It was a night shift, well past midnight, there was a light sprinkling of rain and the police radio had been fairly quiet for the last hour. My platoon mates were either out hunting for lurking property crime offenders, impaired drivers or catching up on paper work.
Our dispatcher broke the radio silence by calling me on the air “Two Echo One Five, can you start making your way to..” as she gave me the location of my next call. We hear our regular dispatchers all shift long and can recognize their voices, her voice sounded off.
As I acknowledged, my dispatcher began to relay the circumstances of the call and I could make out the faint horror in her voice as she read the remarks on the CAD call. The computer in my car started making the familiar “tick tick tick” as a freshly dispatched call was waiting, I opened the screen to read what my dispatcher had just said over the radio to make sure I heard her correctly.
We use “COM” for “Complainant”, the person who initiated the call. Dispatch also confirmed that our COM was 10-10 (no warrants, no criminal record and confirmed that there were no previous mental health files).
On the way to our calls we routinely mentally prepare for what we’ll have to deal with. My initial thought was, “This can’t really be a skinned dog, maybe a Coyote got someone’s pet though”. One of the things I started to consider was how to identify the dog and how I’d have to locate the family and break the news.
I got into the area and there was no one standing outside the path like indicated in the call. I had to use my spot light to light up the path and saw a figure all dressed in black crouching at the side of the path, huddled over with their back to me and it looked like their hands were up to their face.
That struck me as odd. The COM wasn’t where they were supposed to be to meet me. There was a figure dressed all in black where my scene was supposed to be. That figure was crouched, hunched over, hands to their face and didn’t flinch when my spot light lit the pathway up like day light.
I parked just up from the entrance to the path, grabbed the spare flashlight from the console and stepped outside. There was a light mist in the air and it smelled like fresh spring rain. I let dispatch know that my COM hadn’t met me at the road and may be crouched in the path. Our Sergeant was in the area and came by for cover.
I stepped quietly into the entrance of the dark, moonlit path and could just make out the dark figure, still crouched and hunched over, over what I could only assume was about to be my scene. My eyes adjusting to the darkness.
As I approached quietly I stopped and listened for a second and then calmly let the figure know it was the Police. I’d obviously startled him, he bolted straight up and urgently requested I not turn my flashlight on as he didn’t want to see it. He was obviously upset. I could see that the Sergeant arrived and had parked right at the entrance to the path so I directed the upset caller to him so that I could see what I had.
I waited for the COM to get halfway to the Sergeant before I clicked the flashlight on to illuminate the gruesome scene that I was expecting.
If you follow the blog or my twitter feed, you may know I have a dog who’s a part of our family. I was still considering how I would identify this dog that I’d been told had been skinned but that I was betting had been attacked by a Coyote. I’d have to wake up a family and let them know their dog was dead.
As the COM walked out toward the Sergeant I could hear him say “How could someone do that?”.
I lit the scene up, knowing what torn flesh, muscle tissue and organs look like, expecting to see a carcass in some state…..
Instead I had to choke back a laugh. I grinned. You’ll hear that sometimes emergency services personnel can have a dark sense of humour and that’s what gets us through some of the tough calls. At times we have to make light of a situation and some people don’t understand or appreciate this sense of humour.
This wasn’t one of those times. This, this was a legitimate smile, it was funny. There’s really no need for a disclaimer for the next image. It wasn’t the gruesome scene I expected….
I’ll admit, I did feel a sense of loss for the family. Somewhere there was a toddler who was missing an adorable little lion costume.
I walked out of the path to the COM and the Sergeant. The Sergeant looked at me…
“It’s a lion” I tried to keep a straight face and pause for effect but at 3am, after a long night, this was funny.
The COM, once he believed that it was actually a costume and not a skinned cocker spaniel in the moonlight, said he felt embarrassed. After speaking with him it was apparent, by the odour on his breath, that he’d previously enjoyed several alcoholic beverages.
We all had a laugh and ensured our COM got home safe.